Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Learning something new - Kumihimo

This year, one of the things I really wanted to do was to learn kumihimo, which is a Japanese braiding technique.  I have taken the plunge and found a basic eight strand braid to be remarkably easy to learn.  A disc is vital, as is a kumihimo weight which helps with the tension of the braid,  
 This pink and purple satin cord braid was my first attempt and I was really delighted with how it took shape.  It is a meditative process - top right to bottom right, bottom left to top left and turn - but this is only the beginning and there is a lot more that can be made.
 I used organza ribbon for the blue braid, but it wasn't as smooth a finish as the satin cord and was a bit scratchy.  However, it was a good experiment.
This one used rainbow satin cord with black and worked really well.  However, as you can see, none of these have been made into jewellery.  This is because I am considering how to finish a braid off.  You can buy kumihimo ends, you can make your own using wire, you can use ribbon cord ends... A bit of experimentation and practise may be in order.
Of course, apart from all the patterns you can create using different colours, different numbers of cords and different disks, there is the excitement of being able to braid beads and gemstones into the braid as you go.  Now that is something I definitely would like to try!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Versatility

 I know that I am often writing about how versatile polymer clay is, but the two projects featured today really do demonstrate this.  A colleague from work asked me if I could lengthen a necklace which she had bought recently.  I had a look at it and said I could.  Chris and I looked through our massive stash of beads and gemstones, but, we didn't have anything just right.  I then thought I could take the necklace apart and intersperse some round beads in similar colours.  I then had a brainwave!  Polymer clay! I set to and made lots of tube beads out of the ecru clay and baked them. I then painted the ends with some acrylic paint, which I rubbed off to just leave a faint colour.  Having glazed them with a satin glaze, I threaded them onto eye pins and made the necklace longer.
 You can see the beads I added in this photo, but I was pretty happy with the match.  I just hope my colleague is happy with them too!
 On a completely different subject, ever since I was a child, I had really wanted my own 'Toby's Japanese Mouse' from the story 'The Children of Green Knowe' by Lucy Boston.  I loved the illustration in the book which was drawn by Peter Boston.  In the book, here is the description: "...an ebony mouse, life sized with shiny black eyes. It was so cleverly carved that you could see every hair, and it felt like fur to stroke".  I visited the website for Lucy Boston's house, Hemingford Grey and was thrilled to see the shop offering resin versions of the mouse.  'I must order one', I thought,  However, I didn't and when I looked again, they weren't on sale any more. (Ironically, they are back on sale again now! Typical, isn't it?! I may have to have one anyway now...)
However, my clever sculpting friend, Rachael, has come to my assistance and has made me my very own Toby's Japanese Mouse out of polymer clay.  He isn't exactly the same as the illustration, but that makes him more special. 
Isn't he sweet?  I dry brushed him with a grey acrylic paint which I wiped off straightaway, so that the fur can be seen and the details can be seen.
I then glazed him with a gloss glaze so that he would be shiny.  Thank you so much, Rachael, he is wonderful!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Send a little love swap 2015

 I have recently taken part in the Send a Little Love Swap organised by Tracy from Mad About Bags and was partnered with Linny from Australia.  As is usual, we emailed to find out a bit about each other's hobbies and likes/dislikes.  Linny didn't have a blog, so I needed to ask lots of questions! As part of the swap, we needed to send a minimum of 5 things; something heart shaped or themed; something delicious; something handmade; something red. We made and bought and posted the parcels.  I received a beautifully wrapped mountain of goodies!
 Scruffy found the parcels almost as exciting as I did and I had trouble removing them from him!
Here are all the unwrapped parcels.  Wow! (Can you see the kangaroo keyring?)
 I had been sent an apron, some wildflower seeds, a calendar featuring Australian wildflowers, some mango green tea and an Australian felting magazine.  Linny had obviously done a lot of homework on my hobbies.
 There was a lovely heart shaped pan...
 and some beautifully made bags, some handmade felt and a felt ladybird to make.
 The bags were really lovely.
Heart shaped material and a heart button.
Inside, there were lots of pockets.
 The zipped bag was covered in pawprints which even featured on the inside too.  I was delighted by all the gifts, as you can imagine.  A HUGE thank you to Linny for being such a generous and wonderful swap partner and thanks to Tracy for organising.
 So, here's what I sent.  Yes, a felt heart and some earrings and a key ring all featured.  I also found a heart bag and a felt heart garland, sweets, buttons, ribbons and postcards. At the local art sale, a few weeks ago, I bought the little white glass heart which had been made by a local glass artist and that was included too.
Here are my parcels ready to be packaged.  (Unfortunately, in adding the Maltesers to the parcel, I hadn't taken into account the temperatures in Australia and on arrival, they had melted.  Apparently they were solidifying in the fridge. Oops!)  It was a great swap to take part in and I really enjoyed 'meeting' Linny, albeit in a virtual way.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Easton Walled Gardens and snowdrops

I spent a very happy few hours at Easton Walled Gardens today, with my friends Katy and Alison, on our first garden visit of the year. We usually go to Hodsock to look at the snowdrops, but we decided to break with tradition and go somewhere else this year. Although we had all visited Easton before, it was a number of years ago.  There was once a grand house on the site, but during the 1950s, it was demolished and the gatehouse is all that is left.  When the current owners took it over the land in 1994, it was like a jungle and has taken a lot of work to get it to what it is today.  Even the weather was helpful as the fog lifted and we enjoyed beautiful warm sunshine.
 There were some beautiful upright hellebores in amongst the snowdrops.
 Following the path round and looking up, the snowdrops appeared to be like a river...
 ...and were then joined by aconites.
 It almost looked like snow.
 There were so many.
 I liked this urn perched on the edge of the wall.
 On the formal bridge, someone had left a heart of gravel - possibly a tribute to St Valentine? - which I couldn't resist taking a photo of.  I liked the way it had been left there.
 Looking back up towards where the house once was. The terraced banks are planted with wildflowers. On the flat area before the bridge, there were once some formal bedding displays.  You can see them in photos from a visit to the house made by 'Country Life' magazine in 1901, which are displayed in the history room and the tea room.
 Looking back down across what was the walled kitchen garden, with the edge of the massive yew hedge.
 Back by the terrace again - I love an open doorway.
 This was on top of a wall by the area where there was once a peach house.  It is the remains of a sundial and you can see the hole where the gnomen was fixed.
 MC's initials feature a lot in the remaining ironwork - a previous member of the Cholmeley family who owned the house.
 This display of primulas gave a welcome bit of colour in the stableyard, where the shop and toilets are.
Of course I came away with a couple of plants, courtesy of Katy.  This is the rather beautiful Galanthus Elwesii with lovely markings on the petals, which will be planted in my garden as a reminder of the very enjoyable visit to Easton.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Polymer clay flowers and knitting

I have been trying out some new flower moulds I recently treated myself to - they were originally designed for sugar paste but work beautifully with polymer (although you would need two sets if you wanted to use them with both).  They gave some lovely results and I produced lots of flowers in a short space of time. I used translucent clay with colours added, blue translucent and pearl.  They were all highlighted using mica powder, to add a bit of shine.
 The moulds I used were double sided and there is also a cutter to cut the flower shape first, then place it in the mould, add a small ball of contrasting colour for the centre, press the two sides together and voila!  A flower! They are versatile as the sizes of the flowers can be varied. I need to work on the colours a bit more but I can see a Spring flower necklace taking shape in the not-too-distant future perhaps.
The other thing I tried was pretend knitting in two different ways, both using the extruder tool.  One involved twisting two strands together, then another two in the opposite direction and then placing them side by side to create the pattern.
The other technique was more complicated and involved small loops of clay overlaid with a line which was indented between the loops with a cocktail stick.  I'd like to try these again to look like variegated wool, but I really enjoyed making them.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A visit to Stamford, Lincolnshire

We spent a lovely day last Saturday, visiting Stamford.  My friend from Canada, Maria, was in the UK visiting her family and we arranged to meet up and go to Stamford.  I was a bit concerned as there was a snow shower first thing, but luckily, nothing for the rest of the day.  I used to live in Stamford and went to school there and got married in St Martin's Church there too, but hadn't been back for at least ten years and was interested to see if there had been many changes.  It is a beautiful town in the south of Lincolnshire, with a high percentage of Georgian buildings.  It is so photogenic that it has been used in various TV productions, including Middlemarch and Pride and Prejudice.  Above are some of the houses in St George's Square, with the Assembly Rooms on the right.
 Here are more Georgian houses in St Mary's Street.
This used to be The Stamford Hotel but is now a rather pretty shopping area. Stamford had changed a lot - there had been a lot of new houses built, albeit in stone, so blending in (to a certain extent) with the more ancient buildings.  The shops had changed too and there was a plethora of boutiques.
We found a nice interiors shop next to a textile shop and just before reaching the shops, Chris said 'Look at the little observatory up there!'  I looked up and indeed, there it was. (He is extremely observant, looking up as well as where he's going and often points things out which I would totally miss otherwise.)
 Just up there - I expect there is a lovely view over the town from there.  (The birds very helpfully made some rather nice shapes to add to the interest).  (Speaking of birds, there were quite a few starlings perched on our lilac tree this morning - it could have been a little disturbing, as they did seem to be watching, but I think they were checking out the bird table, rather than devising any Du Maurier/Hitchcock-inspired attacks - I hope so, anyway!)
Right, back to Stamford.  This is St Paul's Street, with more lovely buildings. There was a little bookshop which we went in and a florist's shop next door. I love that evocative smell of soil, earth and flowers in a florist's.
A view looking up the High Street.  I had egg and chips in a little cafe (the others had an all day breakfast)...I don't think you can beat egg and chips, especially on a cold day...and we visited most, if not all, of the charity shops in the High Street, buying a few bits and pieces.  It was a lovely day which we all enjoyed and was lovely to be reacquainted with Stamford.

Monday, 26 January 2015

New Art work

We went to an Art sale at the weekend, featuring local glass artists, photographers and print makers.  Needless to say, we came home with some new additions to our collection of pictures.



 We both loved the seed head and branches by photographer Jane Wright - they are so atmospheric and just jumped out at us.
We also saw some of Alison Read's work (it was her house and we were able to see her studio which was fantastic!).  Chris loved this dog woodcut print...
 ...whereas I was after cat prints...like 'Furball' here...
 ...and I thought that this one looks a bit like Scruffy (so, of course, it had to come home with us!)
Right, all we need to do is to get them framed and then decide where they are going.  We are thinking of having a mini-gallery in the hall...